Monday, 30 August 2010


04. The vacuum cleaner isn't scary- I promise!  

It’s been a lazy bank holiday weekend in Aberdeen: between doing a full clean of the house and slobbing we haven’t really achieved (or done) anything. Oh well, we won’t be able to do this quite as much when Dossy arrives, so we’ll enjoy it whilst the quiet lasts! 

Well, I lie; one thing has been rather exciting this weekend. We saw another sheltie in Aberdeen! He was a beautiful sable boy, by the name of Jasper. He was a little bit on the nervous side- his owner’s mentioned that he was a rescue from a couple that had him as a pup only to split up a month later- I can only imagine what that did to the poor boy. Honestly, I'd wish people would THINK before they buy a puppy: I'm sure situation's like this could avoided if they did. On the other side of the coin, his new owner’s spoil him rotten, so much so that I have to say he was ever so slightly on the podgy side- oh dear. He was absolutely stunning though, they’d groomed him to perfection, and he looked so happy sitting next to his Mummy. Coming back home, my cheeks hurt from smiling like a loon, it’s so nice to see what we’ll have soon in the flesh: they (rather surprisingly) seem to be a rare breed up here. Between the staffies, Dalmatians, the plethora of Labradors and the liquorice all-sorts of small dogs we’ve only met three shelties. 

It’s almost as if the breed has fallen out of fashion, ten years ago at the seaside shelties were the dog of choice for most ‘older’ couples. It’s funny how time changes things sometimes.

Oh well, right back on topic, I’ve started my ‘mission- Dossie socialisation’ chart today, so I thought I’d talk about early socialisation. When I first started researching raising puppies, I tripped over one of the most influential (or at least he will be to Dossie’s life) trainers I have read to date. Ian Dunbar’s how to raise a puppy (it’s an e-book, I’ll pop a link at the end of this post) is an extreme e-book, it states quite happily that unless you keep things perfect, your dog will have problems: it skips the nicey-nice of training and tells you the facts. Every dog is born as a blank canvas, to which their new owners can paint a picture, and if you don’t want any problems later on in this picture, then you have a lot of work ahead of you. A lot of the problems that rescue dog’s have could have been so easily sorted when they were puppies- take this for example. A dog is brought into rescue after having been boisterous with the children, he barks at everything, he’s getting “too much”, and “doesn’t obey” his owners, they really can’t take anymore. Fast track back to six months ago, had they taught their puppy to be gentler with their children, had they taught their puppy that whatever it is barking at really isn’t a threat and I would put in my two pence that their situation would have rosier now.

People just don’t quite understand the responsibility they are taking on with a puppy, and Dunbar is not shy about pointing that out. The prospect still makes me nervous I have to say!

So far, my chart is broken down into weeks with various topics under each week- namely week eight to sixteen so far, but with the wonders of technology I’m sure I can extend it a few more weeks.  The basic theory is that every week, you aim to introduce her to as many objects as possible in various topics. So, different types of flooring - gravel, grass, carpet, wooden flooring, cement, sand for example- each experience has to be positive, and not forced.  We’ll go over to the sand, or whichever, say something along the lines of "sand, yay, sand", and act as excited about sand as we can- that sand has to be a pleasant experience.  I’m sure we’ll look like daft lunatics, but we have a bad habit of looking slightly strange already, so getting excited about puppy feet landing on sand won’t be that much of a change!

Of course, there are other topics, such as people - men, women, fat people, thin people, kids, babies, toddlers, children playing, people wearing glasses, people with beards, elderly people, people wearing motorcycle helmets, people with umbrellas, people with walking sticks- needless to say, it’s a long list! Another topic of ours is places- vets, roadsides (quiet), roadsides (noisy), friend's houses, groomers, shops, train station, bus station, schools, parks, boarding kennels etc – on the note of the vets/groomers/kennels we intend to take Dossy in without having anything ‘bad’ happening. It’s a matter of just taking her in- make her sit down and see the hussle- let her watch the world go by, and then hopefully the vet’s won’t be this big scary place that we kick our heels in about.
There’s a topic on animals- cats, small animals, rabbits, birds, livestock, horses and of course other dogs. What I can’t emphasise enough however is to control your puppy's experiences with other dogs if needs be, use a friend's friendly dog, or wait until puppy classes. Whatever you do, do not just walk down the street- and pick the first dog you find to introduce it to, you do not want one of your puppie's first experiences being at the end of a snarling, biting older dog. A bad experience can really put a puppy off – if things aren’t looking positive then know when to take a step back before attempting it again. 

One important topic for us was ‘at home’ – it has to be one of our widest topics (bar humans): vacuum cleaner, tumble dryer, hair dryer, grooming- including but not limited to brushing, nails, checking ears, trimming paw pads, checking teeth (although raw will help quite a bit with this), having a bath, being left alone, toys which are not to be played with, stairs, the tele, etc, etc. I’m sure I’ll add to this list as we go along, but for now you get the picture. As our breeder will be raising Dossie in the home, she will be used to the majority of these things from a very early age, but there’s no such thing as over socialisation!

Noises is VERY important one, you don't want your dog fearful of every pin drop, nor do I want Dossy barking every time the television comes on. Storm, Matt’s German Sheppard, hated sports being on the television, and every time it was on he would run around the living room making as much noise as possible: something we’d like to avoid with MS-Dos.  So, noises- clapping, shouting, whistleing, music - rock, music - classical, television - animals on the tele, sports on the tele - darts, swimming, football, rugby, wrestling (loud commentators), people cheering, people singing, laughing, loud bangs (eg fireworks), cars, car horns, radio etc, etc.

We have objects as our fifth topic: skateboards, pushchairs, prams, the car, the back seat of the car, the ironing board, bikes, scooters, the vacuum cleaner (THE scariest thing to a dog we’ve found- Jack HATES the vacuum cleaner, as did Storm and Frazer), umbrellas and walking sticks so far. Finally, my last topic at the moment is transport: car, bus, train, walking, being carried and motorbikes.

I’m sure we’ve only just scratched the surface on this list. Essentially, whenever we have made Sure Dossie has had a positive experience with each of the subjects on this list, we'll tick it off. We're going to aim for her to meet everything at least five times- that way she shouldn't batter an eyelid by the end of it. Our motto will be to make everything positive- carry a bundle of treats with us, and (hopefully) thatmake the world a less scary place.

It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but we do have a plan. We’re going to camp out at parks, outside our local school, in cafes on the promenade, in cafes in town and that’s not to mention dragging our friend’s around for a session of ‘meet the puppy’. We’ve also booked Dos into puppy training classes, as well as ring craft and hopefully we will also be able to do the Kennel Club Good Citizen’s award with her (when we find a local club that does it). It looks like we’re all going to be busy bees once she does arrive- no more pillow days for us. 

Oh well, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to every moment of it!

Just one link at the end of this post:  

Monday, 23 August 2010


03. Give a dog a raw bone.

Before I start this post, I would like to clearly state that I am no expert on raw feeding. My views and knowledge of feeding raw comes from many a night glued in front of my PC screen, reading other people’s opinions, reading various research papers, taking into account other’s experiences and even testing bones myself.  Yes, I do intend to feed raw, however I’m by no means the doggy guru on the subject, and if you (like me) feel compelled to throw away that bag of kibble- I beg you please do your research first. There are hundreds of websites, podcasts and boards that will happily guide you through your raw decision: whilst no doubt when MS-Dos is with us this page will be infiltrated with my raw shopping lists (plus plenty of pictures), make sure you know what you are doing before you start throwing chicken wings at your puppy.

Right, now that nitty gritty is over and done with, raw feeding is the act of feeding your dog well, raw meat (as well as vegetables if you intend to feed BARF). I have to admit, like many of you out there, I was taken aback by the idea at first: growing up with dogs, I had always been told to not ever give our dog’s bones, and certainly not raw meat. It was an unwritten rule, after a roast chicken you weren’t even to sneakily sneak a titbit of chicken under the table, and even when preparing meat the plates where the raw meat had touched were to go straight into the washing up. Frazer and Jack were my own animal world growing up, and as of such this was actually one of the rules I obeyed- strangely. Don’t get me wrong, they would still get the odd block of biscuit, a lick of gravy every once in a while, and if they were really super duper good Jack could share my glass of milk. However, bones stepped over that magic line, bones were these lethal weapons that could kill if they weren’t bought from the pet shop.

Please bear with me for this tangent, but Jack, our jack Russell, has always had massive problems with his teeth. They seem to attract plaque like a magnet, and a few years back now he had to go under the knife to remove a multitude of his ‘pearly’ whites. He can still eat, but when he smiles, (albeit a gummy smile) half of his teeth including a few of his larger incisors are missing. Since the operation, he has had to have his kibble soaked for five minutes as he has big problems with chewing, in fact he used to love a chew bone every weekend which he can’t anymore- it was the dog’s big treat whilst me and Mum enjoyed a bar of chocolate over some cruddy reality television. Even now we struggle to keep his teeth clean completely: no ends of ‘teeth cleaning chews’ seem to work one hundred percent, although they do keep his remaining teeth at a decent enough standard that they can stay in his mouth.

It was Jack’s periodontal problems that lead me to discover raw one afternoon. Looking at it, it made sense, how else would dogs in the wild keep their teeth primed for their next kill? Both the killing and stripping of the carcass would provide a workout for the teeth plus the dog: shredding the meat off the bone, tearing it up into strips and finally chewing are all natural ‘brushing’ actions after all. Whilst that all sounds rather primal, when you compare the anatomy of wolves in the wild to our fluffy heartbeats, their teeth aren’t that dissimilar. According to the wonders of the internet, both wolves and dogs share the same forty two teeth, which despite all manners of breeding producing all types of muzzles has more or less stayed the same.

What I think owner’s tend to forget is that furry, five kilogram Chihuahua, behind the pink collars and the fabricated Paris Hilton lapdog image is actually a carnivore at heart. Dogs were not designed to eat grains, nor were they designed to eat little circles of dry food. It’s no wonder they get all sorts of issues really.

Whilst the periodontal plus’ are fantastic enough, there are (of course) other benefits to feeding raw. That is not to say it is without its problems, if you do intend to feed raw, you really do need a good source for your meat, and not just a good source for one kind of meat- i.e chicken. Variety seems to be the key to a raw diet: variety is also the one thing I am most worried about with Dossy’s diet. So much so that until I feel I am completely comfortable with my sourcing, and know that I can provide a variety of meat within our area, I am going to start off with commercial ground mixs (such as Natural Instinct or Darlings) with a few days a week of raw meaty bones until I am on my feet. It may sound really silly to say ‘oh hey, I’ve done all my research, but I’m still going to feed my dog on commercial raw rather than homemade raw’, however anyone that knows me will know that I am a total worrywart. I couldn’t just jump into a decision until I am six hundred percent sure that I can do it properly: I have no doubt that the commercial raw mixes will still be superior to kibble if raw suits her.

Before this post starts to sound a bit wishy washy, I shall leave the raw debate at the door for another post. Rest assured, I’m sure once we have Dossy here living with us, there will be plenty more food posts. In other news, I have just started another pattern for a crate cover, so hopefully this blog will have some Dossy-related images very soon!

Once again, here are a few links that I have found so very helpful on the matter of raw, if you are considering (or would even like to read more on the matter of raw), these websites have a plethora of information to mull over:

Sunday, 22 August 2010


02. Give a dog a bone.

It’s been quite a hectic week on the front, well, I say hectic but it’s been one of those weeks where on a quiet Sunday afternoon you look back and question where your time went! We’ve both been busy prepping for September plus doing odd bits and bobs around the house: it’s funny how time flies sometimes. Oh well, back to Dossy matters.

One of the decisions that I finalised in my mind this week was the rather emotive subject of food. From the bog standard Chappie, to the ‘premium’ brands such as Burns, then the cheaper (but quite decent) brands such as Skinners, CSJ was another brand thrown into question, wet food such as nature diet, high meat content and grainless Orijen, ‘green vegetarian’ food- really, there’s all sorts, and what makes matters even worse is that every single one of these brands will claim they’re the holy bone of the dog food world. Then you have to start asking yourself various questions: what type of food will she enjoy the most? What type of food will cover all the vitamins and nutrients she needs as she grows up? What would be the best food for her health and teeth? What has the least preservatives and additives?  Do I go raw- in fact, what is raw? Should I make her a homemade diet, or stick to something commercial? What brand is the best for money- or am I just paying for a bag full of fillers? Do I go for a food with grains, or not? Is eating grains even natural for dogs?

Oh dear, quite frankly, making this decision has been one of my biggest headaches.

However, I do feel I have come on a long way from where my stance stood six months ago. Six months ago, if you had asked me what a decent dog food was, I would have told you to avoid brands like pedigree chum/chappie and to go for something like Burns/James Wellbeloved. My reasoning was based heavily off our rescue dog (Skye)- when we first introduced him into the family we were feeding Jack and Frazer on tins of pedigree chum, they’d both been on this for a number of years,  and despite Jack’s teeth falling out in their multitudes the food was palatable, and neither of the dogs were overly hyper. It must have been rather expensive, looking back at it, as I’m sure a small tin alone equated to around a pound, and that was without the bakers dry dog food we fed alongside it. Anyway, the moment Skye started eating pedigree, he turned into a hyper maniac. He quite literally bounced off the walls, and was nearly un-controllable. I almost daren’t remember how many times myself and Mum battled over whether bringing him into our pack was the right decision or not at the time.

So, we took Skye to dog training classes, where our trainer quite rightly pointed out that we were feeding him Mc’ Donalds every night. It has been an image that has stayed with me for a long time, imagine you have a small toddler and you feed him Mc’ Donalds every day: not only will he grow fat, he will also be bouncing off the walls from the sheer amount of e-numbers, preservatives and the lack of nutrients found in his food. Dogs are exactly the same, and upon looking at the back of a pedigree chum packet, it was promptly thrown away for one of our trainers recommendations (Burns).

Now, I am not about to mock Burns, it is a decent food.  It has got a short list of ingredients, it’s free from artificial colours, flavourings and preservatives, it’s hypo-allergenic (which basically means it’s been proven to cause fewer allergic reactions- I’m betting that’s from the fact it’s not filled with fillers such as corn) and of course it was developed by a vet: however you are essentially paying for a bag of around sixty five percent rice. If you look at the back of the fish and brown rice for instance, rice makes up 63% of the bulk, then you have oats as a third ingredient on the list- when you counter the fact that the fish (a mere 18%) would be inclusive of the water content, that fish and rice bag may as well be called ‘burns- brown rice with a tiny amount of fish’.  That is an extremely low meat content for a carnivore, without even mentioning the problem of whether the vitamins and minerals are synthetic or not.

Are you starting to understand my problem yet?

Whilst half a year ago I would have praised brands such as Burns as the holy grail, I was slowly starting to see the error in my ways. Yet, the more I researched, the more difficult it became to find a good, solid food. Chappie and its followers were out of the question, I wasn’t overly happy with Burns due to the rice content, James Wellbeloved (despite passing the no grains test) still has a low meat content and overall the rest of the ingredients were quite low quality, Skinners proved to be quite popular on a forum I frequent- but considering the main ingredient in their food is either rice or maize/barley that wasn’t overly appealing and in the end only foods such as Orijen/Taste of the Wild/Acana started passing my tests. They were all grain free, had high meat content plus seemed to be ethical companies. From reading other people’s experiences, some dogs seemed to do very well on the high protein: however there were a few teething problems, a few dogs didn’t get on very well with the kibble. I had accepted myself that I would start Dos on a food like Orijen, and if she didn’t get along well with it- I’d try something like Skinners or Burns with lower meat content.

Yet, despite making this decision, there was a niggling voice in the back of my head.  Over the months of my research I had come across a movement of people who fed their dogs ‘raw’ – either on a BARF diet, or a pray model. I almost choked on my tea the first time I read one of their pages, feeding your dogs on RAW meat- raw chicken quarters, raw beef ribs, raw slabs of meaty bones. Why, that thought was almost stupid! All sorts of thoughts started dashing through my head, what about the hygiene side, the bacteria such as salmonella found in meat, that bones would splinter when crunched, and heck I remember laughing to myself that feeding a dog a whole chicken that could feed a family for one weekend was a silly idea. Being the researcher that I am, I continued to look into raw, and the more I looked- the more it made sense. Dogs have a short intestinal tract to deal with bacteria, raw chicken bones don’t splinter when they’re raw (however, they do splinter when cooked- so NEVER give your dog a cooked chicken bone) and if Dossy is to be a member of our family: why should I bow down to feeding her anything less than what I would eat myself?

For heaven’s sake, Robyn, I told myself- give that puppy a raw meaty bone!

Before I digress into the wonderful world that is Raw, I do realise that this post is almost double that of my last. I think we’ll end this post here, and I shall carry on next time!

A few links I found VERY useful when researching food have been:  - A list of definitions of what ingredients really mean. - An excellent website with various reviews of dog food. However, do note that some of these reviews are out of date- so do double check when a review was written, and triple check that by the list of current ingredients on the back of a packet.

Monday, 16 August 2010


01. It begins.

I must admit, that the first post of a blog is never easy, and for as long as I’ve been umming’ and ahh’ing over what to say- I’m quite positive I could have written a book in that time. So, please bear with me if the first post isn’t as fluid as I’d like it to be!

So, where should I start? Myself and my other half have been dog lovers for as long as I can remember, I grew up as a child with three furry balls at my feet. When I first moved out to University, I have to say the one thing that took the longest to get used to would have been NOT having a wagging tail at your feet: the fact you could make a slice of toast, leave it out on the side, and shock horror- it’d still be there five minutes later. It was certainly a strange feeling to curl up at night without a jack Russell curled up at my feet, to wake up without a big black monster licking your face and to eat my breakfast without Frazer barking at me for the crusts. Life just didn’t feel the same without a dog, it was slightly easier, after all, you weren’t out at all hours in the cold walking or even opening the door at all matter of unearthly hours in the morning, however that big doggy size void zone remained.

It had been an unspoken agreement that the moment we were ready, we would buy a dog, and.... Three years down the line I can finally say we are in the right place for another dog in our lives! It seems since the decision was made, we’ve plunged into a world of kongs, of dog beds, training, dog food (gosh, you wouldn’t even realise how much of a struggle that was), leads, fancy collars, even fancier dog tags, dog walking routes, debates about spaying, debates over gender and much more. Instead of discussing last nights ‘tele, we suddenly seem to be discussing how to stitch a crate cover together and a potty training routine. It’s all been rather hectic- and she isn’t even born yet!

The first major decision that we made was our breed. We knew we wanted a small dog to medium sized dog, something that would love long walks down by the beach, but not something quite as small as a pug, or a Yorkshire terrier- although that really didn’t narrow our search down very much!

 The other half suggested cocker spaniels, king Charles cavaliers, poodles, corgis, dachshunds, greyhounds and even terriers of all shapes- nothing seemed to quite fit ‘us’.  I didn’t want another terrier, as Frazer had passed away barely a year ago, I didn’t feel we could have another dog like Frazzie so soon. My Dad had spaniel’s when I was a child- they were lunatics from what I can remember, we didn’t fancy anything like a corgi, another Jack Russell was certainly a possibility, but the more I thought about it, the more obvious it became to exactly what breed I wanted.

Growing up, a friend of the family had two Shetland sheepdogs, one was called Martey (although I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the others), and every year we would receive a Christmas card with a paw print from both dogs. From the very second I saw the breed, I knew the moment I could have a dog- that is exactly what I would have. They were so beautiful, so graceful, so gentle, and the more I researched the breed the more they stuck- convincing Matt was not hard either. I thought he’d be a bit more resilient after growing up with a rather bulky German Sheppard, but he fell as head over heels as I was!

Anyhoo, before I start rambling on, welcome to the MS-Dos Vox, a blog dedicated to my soon to be furry friend- MS-Dos.